Three Italian ministries are attempting to ban Monsanto’s MON810 strain of maize, one of two GM crops currently grown and sold in Europe. Citing the crop’s negative impacts on local biodiversity, Italy’s agricultural ministry is leading the country’s charge against the corporate giant. Partnering with Italy’s health ministry and environmental ministry, the temporary ban would prevent farmers from using this strain for a period of up to 18 months.
“Our agriculture is based on biodiversity, on quality, and these we must continue to aim for, without games that even from an economic point of view would not make us competitive,” said the ministries in an official statement regarding the ban.
While Italy’s ban is a step in the right direction, it is ultimately a formal act. Nearly 80% of Italians are already in support of the ban, according to a nationwide survey directed by Coldiretti, Italy’s largest farming group. Indeed, almost no GMO crops were cultivated in last year’s harvest; only a few pro-biotech farms decided to plant these strains. GMOs are hardly the norm in Italy.
Interestingly, the three ministries have notified the European Food and Safety Authority about the ban. Their hope is that the EU’s food safety watchdog will assess the scientific basis of their decision. This move was likely made in light of France’s controversial “scientific” study that attempted – poorly – to link cancer with GMO maize consumption. To recall, the study was initially regarded as a great victory against GMO companies such as Monsanto. However, after close scientific scrutiny, the study was eventually discredited due to a number of assumptions and unethical decisions by the authors. Scientific verification by the EFSA would certainly help revitalize the scientific argument against genetically modified crops.
This ban by Italy is part of a larger, Europe-wide movement to kick Monsanto – and, indeed, all GMO crops – out of the EU. Last year, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayraul also decided to ban Monsanto’s MON810 strain. Like Italy, France cited concerns about its agricultural biodiversity, as well as concerns about chemical poisoning from the corporation’s pesticides. Since France is the largest grower of crops in Europe, its ban on Monsanto’s key GM crop was considered to be a crippling blow to the corporation’s reputation in the European market.
Currently, only five members of the EU grow MON810: Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania. According to data from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, the GM maize was grown across 129,000 hectares of land. This is not insignificant. However, with any luck, this number will slowly diminish as opposition to Monsanto increases in the EU.